On today’s show we’re talking about the impact of the next wave of the pandemic. I have to say, this is proving to be an emotional roller coaster. While our business has survived the pandemic surprisingly well, the signs of permanent economic damage are starting to show in the broad economy.
As I drive down the street, the number of permanently closed stores is growing by the week. The news of businesses being forced to close again for an extended period of time is heartbreaking. Unless these businesses are given sufficient financial aid, the economic damage will be permanent.
When the lockdown occurred in the Spring, it was done as a preemptive measure, long before the numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths increased. It took a solid 12 weeks for the curve to begin to flatten and for the numbers to decrease. It’s hard to tell whether the reduction in numbers was a result of the lockdown or if it was a seasonal effect the would have happened regardless. This time it’s different. We are just going into winter. The numbers have already surpassed the highs we experienced in the spring.
We have a vaccine rollout that is in process. Despite the early data looking promising, it is still very early data.
It will take many months before a sufficient percentage of the population has been inoculated to stop the spread of the disease. Even when someone has received the vaccine, they need to continue to take care and not get infected for a period of up to 30 days before the vaccine provides maximum protection. But we don’t know how much the vaccine will stop the spread of the disease. Until that is know, the physical measures to stop the spread of the disease will still be required. That means that the impact to the economy will continue for a period of time.
Governments the world over are telling the population that we can expect a lockdown of 28 days. I don’t personally believe that it’s even possible for governments to have enough data with which to make a decision to ease lockdowns on such a short time span. I reviewed several studies that looked at the average length of stay in hospital. The average length of hospital stay since the start of the pandemic has been very close to 20 days. The average incubation period is 5.8 days. So it would take a minimum of 6 days, plus another 20 days for a decision made today to even begin to affect the outcome 28 days from now. In fact, I would argue that the effect would be so small that it would be virtually impossible to measure. There is no way that anyone could make that decision. There simply isn’t enough data with which to make a decision. The numbers won’t have changed in that time period.
So where does 28 days come from? I believe that governments are choosing a time period that is long enough to make a dent, but not so long as to create a revolt in the population. If government came forward and said we need a 4 month lockdown, I have no doubt that we would see protests in the streets. They chose 4 weeks simply to appease the population into compliance.
I’m going back to my original prediction in March of 2020 in which I forecast that this disease would take 18 months to work its way through the medical system and the economy. I’m going to stand by that original prediction. We are going into a second wave. The second wave is more serious than the first. That’s all pretty clear.
The vaccine won’t be deployed in sufficient numbers to have a lasting impact until late summer or early fall. So as you plan your cash flow, your hiring, your travel, and your revenue, remember that we are in the middle of an extremely fluid situation that is likely to change from one week to the next.